by: Msgr. Armando A. Villarruz

Christmas Eve Mass – HOMILY 
I – Intro.:

  • One of the things we like about Christmas is that we receive gifts – Christmas gift-giving (pamasko, pasalubong, mano po ninong, etc.).
  • In this connection, I would like to tell the story of a man (named Joseph Mohr, from Austria) who received a beautiful gift from God & who shared it with the entire world.
  • His beginnings were unpromising because his father abandoned him before he was born.
  • His mother alone had to raise him with her meager living by knitting sweaters, caps & socks.
  • With these small earnings, she was able to send young Joseph to school.
  • Later, feeling a call to the priesthood, Joseph entered the seminary & in 1815 became a priest of the Diocese of Salzburg, Austria.
  • The Bishop assigned him to a lonely mountain parish.
  • Then, one quiet night, the young priest sat down & composed a brief poem.
  • He kept the verses to himself for two years.
  • Then, shortly before Christmas, he showed it to a friend, Franz Guber, who provided the melody.
  • I am sure, you have heard of this poem.
  • It’s opening words (in German): Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! (in English, Silent Night! Holy Night!).
  • And so, at the Midnight Mass in 1818, Fr. Joseph Mohr’s small parish heard the hymn for the first time.
  • The congregation loved it so much & each Chrstmas, they looked forward to singing this carol which their pastor had composed.
  • About 15 years later, some traveling troubadours heard the hymn at a Christmas Mass & they picked it up & performed it at a concert.
  • It spread quickly & in 1839, it was sung for the first time in America.
  • Soon, it was translated into English, Spanish & many other languages.
  • The poem became the most popular Christmas hymn of all times.
  • Fr. Joseph Mohr lived for another 30 years after writing his poem.
  • In spite of the hymn’s popularity, the composer died penniless.
  • Imagine, if you consider the number of times Silent Night has been printed & recorded, the royalties would amount to billions of dollars.
  • But, he had spent his earnings as a pastor to care for the elderly.
  • Fr. Joseph Mohr was buried in the churchyard of Wagrain, Austria, where he had served as pastor for 10 years.
  • It was only then that the world recognized him as the author of Silent Night.

 II – Message:

  • What lesson can we learn here?
  • Fr. Joseph Mohr received his poem as a gift from God, then he gave it as a gift, first, to his parishioners, then to children & adults throughout the world.
  • The story of Silent Night is appropriate for Christmas.
  • Before we appreciate the gift of the Christ child, we need to remember that there is joy to receive a gift, but, there is greater joy to be able to give one.
  • Life itself is a gift.
  • Yet, there is even greater gift than life.
  • And that is what we celebrate tonight.
  • We experience life as a combination of lonings & limitations.
  • Each of us has a hidden self which we wish to reveal to someone who really cares.
  • That someone does exist.
  • We celebrate his birth today.
  • A young man, who never knew his own father, experienced that care from Christ.
  • On a lonely night, he wrote that beautiful poem about that experience.

 III – Conclusion:

I would like to request the choir to sing Silent Night during the Presentation of the Gifts & as we sing it & offer our gifts to the Lord, let us remember & learn from Fr. Joseph Mohr’s generosity to the world that echoes the words of Christ (in Mt.10:8): “What you receive as a gift, give it as a gift.”

Merry Christmas to you all!